News alert: dads have a role to play in the fight against paid leave too


There is a perception that paid parental leave is a ‘women’s’ problem. We see this perception from Republicans when they ridicule Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking time to welcome his new babies, but we also see it from Democrats when they scramble to put paid vacation back into their expense bill ( which should never have been removed in the first place) only after defenders went mad and their party was suffocated by white women in Virginia. Popular wisdom has it that paid parental leave (which is still referred to simply as “maternity leave” by people who pride themselves on not learning new words) is primarily a social benefit for women.

Conventional wisdom is not entirely wrong. In a society where women still bear a disproportionate burden of parenting responsibilities, paid time off is a feminist issue. And while modern medicine has made childbirth more than the leading cause of death in women of childbearing age, as it was in all of human history until the 1940s, the process giving birth to a living human being is always dangerous, demanding, and so painful that I can hardly imagine (or maybe I just don’t want to). Paid time off, just to recover from the physical drama of childbirth, should be a basic floor in a functioning society. What kind of sick bastard looks at a new mom and thinks, “Well, the important thing is that we stop her direct deposit until she can go back and work the ledger”?

And yet, stopping the investigation at a time of paid recovery feels like a political prescription scrawled on a cave wall by a guy named “Gurg” before he goes out to beat his dinner with a stick. Raising children should be a shared responsibility, even in a “traditional” two-parent, one-income household. Meanwhile, with all due respect to those who loved the 1950s so much that they decided to stay there, here in the future, paid time off is something that many women and men want and need to achieve their domestic happiness without giving up a paycheck – or, dammit, a career.

Paid parental leave is a problem for the whole family. The New York Times recently published an article that detailed everything we now know about the effects of the leave on new families. We’ve found that spending time caring for infants reshapes the brains of new parents, making them better (or at least more attentive) caregivers. We know that parents who spend time with their new children report better relationships and better bonds as they grow older. And one study found that even two weeks of parental leave taken by both parents reduced the divorce rate for these couples by 26%. Secondary caregivers – whether they are men in a cis-hetero-normative relationship with an imbalanced distribution of childcare responsibilities, or the partner who does not give birth in a two-parent setup – should claim paid leave just as much as primary caregivers and singles. parents. Just holding a baby a lot makes a person’s brain go from “selfish prick” mode to “I should feed him and teach him language” mode.

Unfortunately, research and real facts are not enough to change the worldview of many Americans. We live in a society, after all, where people still think guns protect them despite a mountain of evidence that gun owners are more likely to hurt themselves or their loved ones than to protect themselves from the harm. crime. Right now, we are fighting Covid-19 with one hand tied behind our back because people are taking comedian pushed dewormers instead of scientists pushed drugs. The fact that research indicates that parental leave benefits both parents is not going to change the minds of men who think that raising children is ‘a woman’s job’ and that they have nothing to do as long as they are. the child is not old enough to learn a jump shot.

The list of things fathers can do to care for a newborn baby literally includes everything except lactation. And modern advancements in storage and refrigeration largely eliminate even this oft-cited gender distinction. There are dads who might benefit from parental leave only as a crash course on “Babies: It’s Your Problem, too” if they haven’t used the previous nine months to study. For example, I learned to swaddle a child during my parental leave. It’s a life skill that I still use to make burritos.

Indeed, one of the best arguments in favor of paid parental leave is to give parents the time and space to acquire these skills, with the social signifier that learning to care for babies is an important, valued element. and expected use of time. Parental leave is not an excuse to take a ‘vacation’, unless being locked in a house with a loud, demanding and barely sensitive sack of meat filled with poo is your idea of ​​a good one. moment. It is a time to adapt to an entirely new being that a person or a couple must help. Too often women are treated as if they are supposed to know what to do ‘naturally’ (they don’t know), while men are treated as if it is normal that they don’t know how to do anything (it is not. not the case). Mothers who struggle with things like breastfeeding or complete sleep deprivation feel bad, as if they are failing in some way or another, while dads who cannot sanitize a bottle or change the Diaper Genie are laughed at, as if the incompetence practiced was encoded on their Y-chromosome.

Politically, paid time off should be a slam dunk, as it is in all other wealthy societies. A recent poll shows that 82 percent of mothers and 69 percent of fathers (perhaps there are is something wrong with the Y chromosome) think they should be granted paid leave on the birth or adoption of a child. Even politicians around the world understand that free time to raise a family strengthens the entire nation. Benjamin Netanyahu, little known for his progressive outlook, pushed his government to grant at least one week of paid paternity leave (Israel grants 26 weeks of paid maternity leave). Vladimir Putin’s Russia grants 18 months paid leave at 40% of salary, which can be taken by either caregiver (mothers have 140 days paid leave at 100% of salary).

But here in the United States, where there is no federally mandated paid vacation, we have politicians like Josh Hawley, a dime store fascist who recently ran around talking about “masculinity.” and lamenting pornography and video games but will not increase the same closed fist he gave to the January 6 insurgents for the cause of paid vacation. Hawley’s version of masculinity is hollow, the kind who cares more about having children than raising them. If Hawley was a farmer, he would be the guy who spits seeds on the ground – instead of getting his hands dirty while plowing the land – and then magically expects to be served a salad.

He has help, like all Republicans, from Joe Manchin. Biden officially supports 12 weeks of paid parental leave, but Democrats withdrew that proposal from their spending bill because Manchin opposed it. Now House Democrats have reinserted a proposal for paid rump leave – four weeks instead of 12 – but Manchin is still stubborn.

Manchin said he was on paid leave (a statement I have no reason to believe, since he did nothing to make that happen) but doesn’t want it in this bill. He said his objection to the House’s reinstatement of the proposal was that he did not want any increase in social spending and that “we cannot go too far to the left.”

Again, it is not a progressive idea that people should have time off to care for newborns; it’s a global idea. But men like Manchin and Hawley have decided that taking care of our own families as these families grow is sort of bad for business. They refused to support a politically popular policy, even though most of the rest of the world understood that paid time off made them stronger. They reduced fatherhood to throwing fresh meat at their children, then running away to imbue others with it, knuckles scraping the ground as they went.

I don’t think Democrats should go on paid family leave because it will help them win the election (although I don’t see how it hurts). I think Democrats should support it because all the best evidence tells us that spending time learning to care for our children helps these children thrive. Basically I think paid time off is one of the things we can do to help our country stop producing men like Josh Hawley and Joe Manchin.


Leave A Reply